Assisted Living Entries

Photo: PDC Midwest, Inc.

I am often asked whether it is code-compliant to install a separate deadbolt with a latchset or lockset on a dwelling unit entry door in an assisted living facility.  Most doors in a means of egress are required to unlatch with one operation for egress.  While there is an exception in the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code for dwelling units and sleeping units (AKA individual living units and guest rooms) of Residential occupancies, this exception does not apply to most assisted living facilities.

While an entry door for an assisted living apartment may seem like a residential occupancy, the IBC classifies some assisted living facilities as Use Group I-1 and NFPA 101 classifies them as Residential Board and Care occupancies.  Although the NFPA 101 occupancy type includes the word “residential,” it is not one of the occupancy classifications included in NFPA 101’s Residential occupancies (those are 1- and 2-family dwellings, lodging or rooming houses, hotels, motels, and dormitories, and apartment buildings).

This means that the exception which allows two operations to release the latch on residential dwelling units does not apply to assisted living facilities, so all locking or latching hardware must release with one operation.  A single lockset (no deadbolt), or an interconnected lock or mortise lock (with deadbolt) could be used.  In some cases, electric strikes are used on assisted living entry doors, to allow entry by emergency personnel or to release the latch if the door is equipped with an auto operator (or for both purposes).  A fail-secure strike must be used, because these doors are typically fire-rated.

Because of the fire rating, the doors must also be self-closing, to ensure that the door will be closed and latched if there is a fire to protect the occupant within or to prevent the fire from spreading from the unit of origin.  Some architects and specifiers have asked me about omitting the closer, as allowed on patient rooms in health care facilities.  Although an assisted living unit may be a part of a health care facility, the exceptions in the IBC and NFPA 101 which allow non-rated patient room doors without closers apply only to Use Group I-2 (IBC) and Health Care occupancies (NFPA 101).

What do you specify or supply for hardware on an assisted living unit?  Which lock function is preferred?   What about access control?  Do you use closers, spring hinges, or automatic operators?  Any other helpful hints?

Photo: PDC Midwest, Inc.

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